While thinking of school closures being considered due to low temperatures, I am left to wonder if people are less resilient than they used to be. When winter snows drifted to the second story of my grandparent’s Iowa farmhouse, and temperatures dropped to bone numbing cold, my mother and her three siblings walked approximately five miles to school each day. I am not saying that I would want that for today’s children, but I’m using it as an example that in years of yore, people seemed a lot tougher than they do now.
When I was a child living in Idaho in the 1950’s, I walked a mile and a half to school, and another mile and a half home regardless of the weather, be it beneath a hot sun in spring and fall, or in the grip of winter’s icey fingers. At that time it was against the school’s dress code for girls to wear jeans or trousers of any kind. My mother sidestepped that rule by having me wear snow pants beneath my skirts to keep my legs from freezing.
Fast forward to the 1980’s when I found myself living in Alaska with my own three children. Sub-zero temperatures were taken in stride and few school days were missed due to bad weather, the latter being caused by blizzard conditions making it unsafe for people to be on the roads no matter their destination. We all lived to tell about it – my children who are now grown, my mother, her siblings, and I.
The key is to adapt to the circumstances. Teach children about wind chill, hypothermia, and frost bite, and how to deal with and avoid such conditions, then provide them with appropriate clothing. After all, it is part and parcel of their educational experience. And yes, even a five year old can learn such things. I did, as did my daughter and two sons at an early age.
But, some might argue, sending our children out into the cold will make them sick. Hardly. Colds, flu, and other illnesses aren’t caused by chill factor, but by viruses and bacteria passed from one person to another. As a youngster, I went out to play in snow and sub-freezing temperatures, as did my children, then came in refreshed, alert, and as healthy as before. I will also add that my children received several certificates of perfect attendance from their schools attesting to their good health despite being subjected to sub-zero temperatures almost on a daily basis during winter.
Others might complain that it’s an unnecessary hardship to send children out in the cold to attend school. My grown children look back at the long, sub-zero winters in Alaska and laugh. They speak of digging tunnels in the snow, making igloos, and lying on the white ground during moonlit nights watching the stars and aurora borealis. They took the cold in stride whether it was to attend school or to enjoy the winter playground, as will most children if only the adults will do the same.
Should schools be closed due to low temperatures? No. Simply know the climate in which you live, and prepare.